PULLMAN, Wash.—The early-summer heat wave throughout the Pacific Northwest continues to create potentially dangerous conditions for pets, warn veterinarians at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

And the hottest predicted temperatures across most of the region are yet to come.

“Dogs and cats do not sweat like humans,” said Raelynn Farnsworth, interim director of WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. “Instead, they pant and seek shade to eliminate excess heat. Pets do lose water through exhaled air, and that needs to be replenished with abundant, clean, free-choice drinking water. Free-choice meaning they can reach water at any time, even if they are in an enclosed space.”

Dr. Farnsworth said it is best to walk pets in the early morning and evening hours, but time outside should be minimal otherwise. Animals also should not be left in vehicles or tethered outside without shade or water. The interior of an automobile can reach temperatures approaching 200 degrees in a matter of minutes.

“Animals left in parked cars during summer heat can develop heat stroke in a very short period of time,” said Farnsworth. “People are best advised to not leave pets unattended in parked cars or similar enclosures during the summer heat at all, whether the windows are down, or not.”

Cracking open the car window is not a solution as it may not prevent the heat buildup or it may provide a way for the pet to escape. Parking in the shade may also seem like a temporary fix, but offers little protection when the sun shifts in the sky.

It is illegal to leave or confine any animal unattended in a motor vehicle or enclosed space if the animal could be harmed or killed by exposure to excessive heat, cold, lack of ventilation, or lack of necessary water. In addition to potential fines, the Washington state law also authorizes and protects animal control personnel and law enforcement officers who break into a vehicle or enclosed space to prevent harm to an animal. Egregious cases could result in animal cruelty charges.

Farnsworth said in the heat, owners need to cautious of hot pavement. “If it’s too hot to walk barefoot, it’s too hot for your pet’s feet.” She said to be especially sensitive to pets with special needs, including those that are old, overweight, or that have heart and lung disease. “Leave these animals at home and protected as much as possible,” she said.

A dehydrated or overheated pet may pant heavily, stagger, vomit, have diarrhea, seizures, or go into a coma. If you fear your pet may be experiencing any heat-related illness, WSU veterinarians urge you to seek immediate veterinary medical care.

Media Contact:

Dr. Raelynn Farnsworth, interim director, WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, 509-595-3099, raelynn@wsu.edu